Archive for the ‘Nature writing’ category

Quick Blogroll Update: Jennifer Frazer/Biodiversity edition

July 14, 2009

I’d like to draw y’all’s (got to love any opportunity for two apostrophes in a single word) attention to two new listings on the blogroll, both from the same blogger, Jennifer Frazer.  Her science blog, centered on natural history in a modern biological frame, appears under this delightful name:  The Artful Amoeba.

Jennifer is a glutton for punishment, so just to make sure that she has enough to do she publishers her paeans to the satisfactions of the kitchen under this slightly clunkier moniker: Home Cooking Well.

Jennifer is one of those folks you brag about if you happen to be a teacher — and I wish I could claim a personal role in her success. I can’t, because she completed her master’s program in the MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing in 2004, just as I showed up as a part – timer.  Now I run the joint and I couldn’t be happier to be able to call Jennifer one of ours — and she is kind enough to credit me with goading her into starting …Amoeba…

She’s a fine writer — freelancing now in Boulder after starting her career as a small-town newspaper reporter at the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle — and a knowledgeable one, having completed graduate work in microbiology plant pathology/mycology at Cornell, her MIT degree, and a delightful thesis for that program singing the praises (not really) of mold.

Don’t just take my word for it.  You can simply read her blog(s) to judge for yourself, or if you favor external validation, consider this:  In 2007 Jennifer won one of the most serious prizes in science journalism, the AAAS Science Journalism Award for an investigation of a swarm of elk deaths in Wyoming.

For those of you keeping score — that’s less than three years after she completed the MIT program, which is, I believe a record for those hitting the real world after completing a science writing course.  Something to consider for anyone thinking about such programs, as I am constrained to say as head of this one….

So check her out. Hire her if you need some free-lance writing…you couldn’t do better.  And in the meantime, read what she has to say, and thus share her joy in the rigorous investigation of the natural world.

Image:  Henri Rousseau, “Combat of a Tiger and a Buffalo” 1908-9

Program Notes: NY Times/Ansel Adams edition

April 29, 2008

The Gray Lady of 43rd St. (no more!) has posted a nice taste of Ansel Adams’ Yosemite photos.  The commentary comes from one of Adams’ assistants, but it’s the photos that carry the day.

This isn’t exactly science, I’ll admit — but I’m with John Muir on this one.  It’s worth being reminded of the wellsprings of scientific imagination.  Here’s Muir  on an afternoon storm in the valley:

About noon, as usual, big bossy cumuli began to grow above the forest, and the rainstorm pouring from them is the most imposing I have yet seen.  The silvery zigzag lightning lances are longer than usual, and the thunder gloriously impressive, keen, crashing, intensely concentrated, speaking with such tremendous energy it would seem an entire mountain is being shattered at every stroke, but probably only a few trees are being shattered, many of which I have seen on my walks hereabouts strewing the ground.  At last the clear ringing strokes are succeeded by deep low tones that grow gradually fainter as they roll afar into the recesses of the echoing mountains, where they seem to be welcomed home.  Then another and another peal, or rather crashing splintering stroke, follows in quick succession, perchance splitting some giant pine or fir from top to bottom into long rails and slivers, and scattering them to all points of the compass. Now comes the rain, with corresponding extravagant grandeur, covering the ground high and low with a sheet of flowing water, a transparent film fitted like a skin upon the rugged anatomy of the landscape, making the rocks glitter and glow, gathering in the ravines, flooding the streams, and making them shout and oom in reply to the thunder.

How interesting to trace the history of a single raindrop!  It is not long, geologically speaking, as we have seen, since the first raindrops fell on teh newborn leafless Sierra landscape.  How different the lot of these falling now!…(Italics added)

(John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra, Houghton Mifflin, 1979, pp. 124-126)

Muir was no scientist.  A great naturalist, a founding environmentalist, a passionate advocate, but not a scientist.  But I read in him the joy in nature that makes me, at least remember why scientific discovery does more than please my curiousity; following Muir, the recognition of order within beauty moves me too.

Ansel Adams’ photgraphs say it better.  Enjoy.

Image:  Ansel Adams “The Tetons and the Snake River,” 1942 Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the National Park Service. (79-AAG-1)  Not one of the Yosemite images, of course, but it is one of the great ones nonetheless.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.